Two-time welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson was back in action in New York City on Saturday at UFC 217. Going up against him? The always dangerous Jorge Masvidal.
Thompson was, of course, coming in off his second title fight against Tyron Woodley, while Masvidal entered the night off a loss to Demian Maia.
From the outset, “Wonderboy” was in his traditional karate stance, while Masvidal was willing to sit back and look for an opening to counter. Though Thompson’s kicks were arguably the deadliest in the division, Masvidal was more than willing to throw a number of his own, connecting to the leg and midsection several times early. He would, however, keep his hands well up, showing considerable respect for Thompson’s striking prowess.
Masvidal’s game plan early was clearly to chop the lead leg of Thompson, and in that, he was finding success. An overhand right by Thompson, however, connected clean, slipping through Masvidal’s defenses; a side kick briefly dropped Masvidal moments later. He’d answer back with a pair of leg kicks.
After the competitive first round, Masvidal opted for a change of pace, looking for a takedown early in the second. Thompson, who came into the grappling game late, was able to stay on his feet, however. Moments later he dropped Masvidal, using a side-step to set up a crisp right hand. Masvidal would pop back up, and push the action while Thompson stayed at range and picked his shots. The leg kick would continue to be the best weapon in Masvidal’s arsenal.
With just under a minute to go, however, Masvidal would clip Thompson, giving him a second wind. Still, the second belonged to Thompson, who was far more effective with his striking.
In the third, Thompson continued to win the striking exchanges while Masvidal continued landing leg kicks; Thompson was showing some redness on both legs. At the midway point they opened up, with Masvidal covering up while he took some additional damage. He would answer back, but it seemed as if Thompson hit him twice for every blow Masvidal could muster. As time wore down, Masvidal tried to pick up the pace, but Thompson would catch a kick, jab a couple of times and drop him backwards just as the bout ended.
Stephen Thompson def. Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)